Picture this: it’s the end of the school year. It’s the first day of summer vacation. It’s the first day in a long time that I do not have to write or complete a To Do list. I can sleep in, as long as Ronan sleeps in. I can go wherever I want to go. I can do whatever I want to do. Freedom. After a successful and very long school year, I can finally get a little taste of freedom.
It was much needed, that freedom.
During the school year, the kids have us hopping from one event to another. I don’t mind those events; they’re what helped Ronan get accustomed to being the amazing spectator he is. I don’t mind the busy-ness of it all; it’s what keeps us all waking up and going out in the world each day. I do not love how tiring some of it all can be, though, which is why I welcomed that first of many unstructured days with such glee.
I knew I wouldn’t get to do that every day this summer, but it was important for me to begin the first official summer vacation morning in my pajamas.
I wanted to stay in ‘jammie day’ mode all day.
So, I did.
While the kids and I reveled in the laziness of that first day off, Ronan kept to his usual routine. That meant waking up ready for his activities and ready to eat a good breakfast. I made sure his day was exactly what he needed it to include – his tasty meals and his fun activities. I smiled while feeding him in my jammies on the couch. I could easily provide that for him while also taking care of my need – the need to be completely lazy.
Over the course of the day, Ronan stayed happy. I did as well. I puttered around the house thinking about things that I wanted to work on over the summer break. I finally had time to think about them. I made sure to just think about them that day. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with a new To Do list. The summer projects – clean out every closet, sort through the too-small clothes, clean the car, finish some writing projects, rewrite and repost the ad for the new caregiver I’ve not yet been able to hire…those things had the potential to be stressful. Stress was not part of my lazy day agenda. I walked through the house making a mental note of which closets needed attention first and drafted a want ad in my head. I’d do the actual writing down part the next day.
I’d been working a little bit extra as the school year wound down, so it was good to reacquaint myself with the house. Dust bunnies had taken up residence in a few corners of the den, a room I hadn’t had time to sit down in and enjoy. I’d run the vacuum in that room first, but I’d do it tomorrow. With Ronan’s little brother going off to college in the fall, I prioritized going through his closet with him next. We didn’t sort anything, just discussed what he imagined he’d be bringing with him.
After a full morning of doing not much except taking mental notes, I took a nap. I hadn’t realized how tired I was. Even though I had done far less that morning than I usually did while at work, I was exhausted. With the kids home to pitch in to help their brother, I took a break. I curled up on the couch under a blanket next to Ronan and closed my eyes. I slept soundly for 45 minutes. I woke up, saw that he was still doing well, and then slept for another 45 minutes.
I really was exhausted!
Like I mentioned, the school year was successful. But it was also very long. Juggling Ronan and work this school year was taxing, too. Without consistent care for him since the winter, it was very stressful as well. On days that I did have our helper at home with Ronan, I’d jet to work. Then, I’d jet quickly home before she had to leave. She could work her regular hours, but not every day like she had been. Her availability was unpredictable. That meant that my availability was unpredictable. My boss was mindful of our caregiver situation. In being mindful, she was also compassionate and allowed me to create a schedule that worked for me and my family. That schedule was never the same twice, which messed up my routine. It sometimes messed up Ronan’s routine. Ronan’s brother, toward the end of his last high school semester, could help me. I’d pick up hours at my job on the days he could be the main caregiver. We made it work, but the extra bit of stress of juggling all the things and the constant changes was tiring. I’d been napping 1 or 2 days a week during the spring semester as soon as I came home. Making sure Ronan was content, I’d grab 10 minutes of sleep. Those cat naps, or Cat naps ;) gave me the energy I needed to get through the rest of the afternoon and evening and also through to the end of the school year.
I love a good nap and still nap every now and then. But that’s because I want to…not because my body needs me to.
Summer, while less structured, can still be a somewhat of a busy time depending on what we choose to do. I’m home now full-time. While I’ve chosen to slow down a bit, the kids have chosen to do a little bit more. Ronan’s younger sister is working out of the house while also continuing to train off-season for her sport. His brother is working two jobs, hoping to be able to graduate debt free like his big sister just did. And I’m keeping myself busy with that cleaning and organizing that needed to be done. Closets, my office, the writing I’ve been putting off – I could let some of it overwhelm me. But that won’t help my hopeful summer attitude. So, I am keeping a good balance of getting to the ‘must do’ tasks while scheduling in some relaxation, too.
Since our summer started, we went on a quick beach trip. We’ve also gone on shopping trips, visited with friends, taken walks at sunset, and done other typical summer-time activities. Some nights have us up really late watching classic movies. Other nights the kids play video games or play guitar and sing songs until prayer time. Whatever we get to do, it’s done usually with some smiles and also with so much less stress. Smiles are better than stress. So are multiple jammie days, which I will make sure to add in as our summer continues. We have two more months of it to enjoy. I hope you can enjoy yours, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
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